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Could Gait Be a Diagnostic Marker of Parkinson Disease?


September 23, 2019

Quantitative gait characteristics may help diagnose prodromal Parkinson disease (PD), according to the authors of a new study. This determination comes after findings showed that higher step time variability and asymmetry of all gait characteristics were associated with a shorter time to PD diagnosis.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers studied data on 696 healthy participants (mean age, 63 ± 7 years) from the Tubingen Evaluation of Risk Factors for Early Detection of Neurodegeneration study.

The participants performed gait assessments 4 times, with the assessments taking place 2 years apart. As part of the assessments, the participants—who wore device on their lower back—had to walk at different speeds under single and dual tasking. With the device’s help, the researchers measured for 14 validated clinically relevant gait characteristics.

Over the course of the longitudinal study, the researchers identified those who developed PD. When a participant was identified as having PD, the researchers controlled for age and sex, and analyzed whether the participant’s results from the first assessment could predict time to PD conversion. 

In all, 16 participants were diagnosed with PD. The diagnosis came, on average, 4.5 years after the participants’ first visit.

The researchers determined that the gait of someone with PD deviates from someone without PD approximately 4 years before the PD diagnosis. Further, higher step time variability and asymmetry of all gait characteristics were associated with a shorter time to PD diagnosis. 

“Together with other prodromal markers, quantitative gait characteristics can play an important role in identifying prodromal PD and progression within this phase,” the researchers concluded.

—Colleen Murphy

Reference:

Del Din S, Elshehabi M, Galna B, et al. Gait analysis with wearables predicts conversion to Parkinson disease. Ann Neurol. 2019;86(3):357-367. doi:10.1002/ana.25548.

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